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Judge to Tahoe Area: Consider Future Development More Carefully

PHOTO: Emerald Bay, on the west side of Lake Tahoe, is just one of the scenic places caught in the debate between further development and preserving local air and water quality. Photo by Kurt B. Teuber for America's Byways.
PHOTO: Emerald Bay, on the west side of Lake Tahoe, is just one of the scenic places caught in the debate between further development and preserving local air and water quality. Photo by Kurt B. Teuber for America's Byways.
January 9, 2013

CARSON CITY, Nev. - A federal judge has delayed major expansion of a Lake Tahoe area ski resort. Now, its neighbors are wondering what's next in the longtime controversy over the potential environmental impact of enlarging Homewood Mountain Resort.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit had challenged the developer, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Placer County, California. Wendy Park, Earthjustice senior attorney, says U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb late last week agreed with her clients that an option for a smaller facility wasn't properly analyzed. However, she says, a larger issue is at stake.

"They've already approved this new regional plan, so they're already set on a course for allowing much more development than their previous plan has allowed. This is part of a continuing pattern."

Park says the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore were concerned that more than 300 additional hotel and condo units on the property would add to the problems the west shore of Lake Tahoe already faces: air and water pollution, noise and traffic.

Any of the parties that were sued can appeal the decision, or the developer can submit a new plan. Ron Grassi, co-chair of the Lake Tahoe Area Sierra Club, says the ruling gives guidance to developers that they need to provide complete information and that local planning agencies need to vet that information fully and independently.

"It's a message to them that in their haste to approve each project that comes before it, they better slow down and not assume that the public is fully asleep; that they better do a more appropriate job of complying with the law."

The developer had said a smaller expansion of Homewood Mountain Resort would not be profitable. The judge said that determination was made based only on estimates of lift-ticket revenue instead of considering all possible income sources for the resort.

A text of the decision is online at earthjustice.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NV